Monday, May 23, 2011

House on the Hill

I have been following the story in the Toronto Star this past week about the future of Casa Loma with mixed feelings. I love history and most important I love the history of Toronto. I have belong in the past to the Toronto Heritage Society and enjoyed with all my extended family the free walking tours they have. Who doesn't find it fascinating to hear the stories of the family who once lived in mansion along Jarvis st. Or the oldest bar still serving in Corktown. How about the beauty of the Annex and if you can look past the frat houses you can still see it. Chinatown, Little Italy, Greektown, Kensington Market, The St. Lawrence Market, and don't forget Cabbagtown. Toronto has such a rich heritage and what is great fun for me is to show this fabulous city off to people who haven't seen it before. The husband says I would be such a great tour guide because I love the stories behind the building. I have had fun these past few years as I have been the unofficial tour guide to KD, Albatross and there girls Mac and Cheese. We have been to Center Island, browsed through the Blue Banana in Kensington Market, ate giant chocolate covered strawberries at the St. Lawrence Market. Dreamed what it would be like to live in Casa Loma. We even went as far as looking on line for the house prices in the area. Lets say if we sold our homes, pooled our money we might come up with a nice down payment for a two bedroom townhouse. Needless to say we aren't moving to a castle neighbourhood anytime soon.

Reading this past week about the uncertian future of Casa Loma left me feeling sad. I understand the cost of maintaing such a huge piece of history. When Sr Henry Pellatt built the house for his wife, he wasn't thinking 50 - 100 years from now and how the stone would hold up to Canadian climate. As much as I think the man was not the wisest and a tad show offish for my taste, the Castle on the hill is one of the most unique attractions Toronto has. Tourist come to Toronto and marvel at the downtown core, the CN Tower, Our skyline which for the past few years has been a skyline of construction cranes. As condo's are being built everywhere. But if you just go a little further north on Spadina you come to this massive hill and low and behold a castle. Who would of expected it, there are comfortable old family homes surrounding it, Little Italy is just a few blocks away. It is really is breathtaking

What to do the article says tourism is down 5% a year and the cost of upkeep it to much. What can be done to spend taxpayer money wisely. Well I don't know for sure but what I do know is as a working family going to Casa Loma is something we do every few years because not much changes. Yes I get it is history and all but still it is very expensive to get in to the castle and out of the 98 rooms it doesn't feel like more then 1/3 are open to viewing. The gardens are beautiful but again only for a the summer months are they open.

What can you do to increase tourism you ask? LOWER the PRICE of admittance and why are you charging $3.00 per hour to park? Again you are just ripping off your guests. Somebody suggested using the castle as a museum of Toronto, great idea you lots of empty rooms. Open the castle up to more events, yes I know you do Wedding, and Birthdays (been to a few there and they are wonderful) but lets have some more events for the public. How about a fancy High Tea for families, Costume parties, Mystery dinner nights. Why not have actors walk work around the castle as if we are back in the time of the Pellats living there. Have them in period clothing and they are doing, discussing what ever would of been going on, on that particular day in history.

I have had a look on your website and see lots of cool things but how come I have to go to the website why are they not advertised everywhere. Lets take advantage of all aspects of media, print, radio, television, social networks.

The little one and I were at a museum house in Belleville this past summer and what they did for the kids is had a scavenger hunt sorta of. She was given a paper with clues and she had to find the different items in the house as we went along the tour. It kept her entertained and she learned about the house and asked to go to more museums. Change things up a bit, borrow items from other historical homes to show what it was like. How about some kind of reward/game for the returning visitors. And as a food person why is there know kitchen for us to see?

I don't maybe all these things have been done before but all I do know is the reason local tourist don't come back every year is because nothing changes. Lets get some fresh blood running the Castle and think outside of the box. And really the big issue for most families is the price city run tourist sites.

I might be just blowing hot air but it seems such a shame if Toronto loses Casa Loma to some developer. And then when we can look up to the hill and no longer see a unexpected castle but instead the expected construction Crane for another condo.

Maybe its just me, perhaps competing with sports events, Wonderland and mega shopping malls (that have some how become tourist sites ???) is just more bang for the buck. Our stories no longer hold $ value to our ever changing population. What I do know is a couple years ago KD and I took a grade nine class to Toronto for the day. On any given day one of the kids from that trip will talk about our trip downtown and how much fun it was. So maybe there is some hope that our past will be preserved by our future.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you that if we are not careful we will lose our past. Every March Break we take the boys to another historical site in Toronto. They really enjoy them! They continue to talk about them. We have been to Casa Loma many times. I continually read about the financial hardships they suffer. I don't know what will happen. We need to take todays youth and show them the value of the past. I think they will be the ones to save it.